TORI AMOS with Howie Day at the Air Canada Centre, November 22. Tickets: $35.50-$49.50. Attendance: 6,000. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Once upon a time, Tori Amos sweetly roared righteous indignation on behalf of a generation of awkward, angsty fairy boys and girls. Her cryptic, intensely autobiographical anthems addressed everything from surviving rape to the fucked-up state of organized religion. She mixed soaring but spiky melodies with raw, unashamedly sexual performances.These days, her life couldn't be better -- she's shacked up with a dreamy dude and a cute kid in a UK castle -- and her muse is more global. Scarlet's Walk, her new album, was sparked by a post-9/11 road trip across the States. A noble cause, but judging from last Friday's polished performance at the ACC, these songs lack the visceral, emotional oomph of the Tori classics.
At least there's range in her material, though. It was sorely needed after David-Gray-in-waiting opener Howie Day (their names rhyme!) lulled the crowd of well-dressed 30-somethings, fey queer guys, fishnet-clad post-goth chicks and college girls with bored boyfriends into somnolent submission with lovelorn folkie-boy tunes.
Day's cute, but his one-man-band shtick of super-looping acoustic riffs, hand-clap percussion and overlapping vocals is a cool idea that loses its novelty after a couple of identical tracks. Somebody hire session musicians for the guy.
Thank god(dess) Miz Amos fleshed out her usual Bosendorfer grand piano set-up with a couple of atmospheric keyboards and a two-person band. Against a mock-highway backdrop that looked like it'd been stolen from a high school play, Amos cooed and tinkled her way through an epic two-and-a-half-hour set of songs that spanned her career, from Under The Pink's Cornflake Girl all the way to the title track from her new disc.
She's still riveting -- even hemmed into a tight box by piano keys on all sides. Who needs witty banter when you can writhe in stilettos on a piano bench? She also wooed her fans, playing old fave Winter on request.
But the new material seemed like tepid Shawn Colvin-style pap, sugary and lilting against thundering renditions of Crucify, or even the more recent Hey Jupiter.
Where is the prickly, passionate Tori of yore? Spend too much time with the fairies and you lose your edge.